Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Avrie and Jake - Everson

In 2006, Avrie was born a healthy, 6-pound-14-ounce girl. She didn't arrive with any medical complications. But she did come with a pile of medical bills and a load of stress for her parents, Marissa and Tim.

They had health insurance through Tim's employment at a heating and air conditioning warehouse, but it paid only about 60 percent of the costs of Avrie's birth. Tim and Marissa worried about the expense even as Marissa went into labor. "We kept asking how much the hospital was per night," said Marissa, and they left the hospital as quickly as they could.

Then the bills began to arrive. Tim and Marissa didn't have the money to pay them, so they charged them on a credit card. To save money, Tim stopped driving his truck and began driving a small car passed on by a relative, and they let go of extras like cable TV and movies. It took them more than a year to pay off their medical debt. Meanwhile, they were paying new bills each time they took Avrie to the doctor. The stress took a toll on the family, straining Marissa and Tim's relationship.

When Avrie was a year old, the happy news that Marissa was pregnant again came with a dark cloud of worry about what this second birth would cost. Then they discovered that they qualified for help through a provision of the Cover All Kids law that supplements employer-sponsored insurance. It pays their share of the insurance premiums and provides additional coverage to round out health insurance for the children.

In 2008 when Jake was born—another healthy, normal child, at 7 pounds even—everything was covered, from the birth to all of Jake's and Avrie's doctor visits. "I kept saying to Tim, ‘Can you believe we haven't paid for anything?'" Marissa said. The load of debt—and worry—is gone. Now when Tim comes home from work, he is quick to chase Avrie around the house, both of them collapsing in giggles when he catches her.